What is a Torn Posterior Cruciate Ligament?

While a torn posterior cruciate ligament tear is much less common than a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), this ligament can still cause pain and disability if damaged. The posterior cruciate ligament, found inside the knee, connects the thigh bone to the shin bone by forming an “X”-shape with the anterior cruciate ligament. Though PCL tears make up less than 20% of all knee ligament injuries due to the PCL typically being stronger and larger than the ACL, injuries that tear the PCL oftentimes damage other ligaments, cartilage or even bone inside the knee.

Causes

Most often, torn posterior cruciate ligaments occur due to a hard blow to the knee while it is bent. These can include situations like:

  • Sudden trauma or accident, such as a fall or motor vehicle accident
  • Misstep or trip onto the knee while it is bent
  • Injuries incurred in highly-physical sports, such as soccer, football, baseball, basketball and skiing

There are four distinct grades used to determine the severity of your torn posterior cruciate ligament, with Grade I being a partial tear and Grade IV being significant damage to both the PCL and other ligaments within the knee. Your orthopedic surgeon will carefully examine your knee to determine what type of injury you’ve sustained and whether you’ve incurred mild or extreme damage to the posterior cruciate ligament.

Symptoms

The posterior cruciate ligament can be tricky – Oftentimes, patients may not feel anything significant right away and may even continue with their activities, assuming that only a minor injury to the knee has taken place. However, over time the knee will become more unstable and the pain will likely worsen. Symptoms that will develop include:

  • Pain in the injured knee
  • Mild to severe swelling that usually occurs hours after the injury
  • Mobility issues, such as an inability to bear weight on the knee or the sensation that the knee may “give out”

If you think you may have damaged your posterior cruciate ligament, it is highly recommended to seek medical attention. If this injury is left untreated, it can adversely affect your athleticism and mobility while sometimes leading to chronic pain and even osteoarthritis in the knee.

The OrthoCARE Treatment Approach

OrthoCARE Institute, North Texas’s premier bone, joint and spinal center, is committed to helping patients stay active, pain-free and healthy. Depending on the results of your exam with one of our experienced orthopedic surgeons, we may recommend first implementing a combination of conservative options to treat your torn posterior cruciate ligament. These treatments may include:

  • Resting and elevating the knee while temporarily limiting activity
  • Compression with an elastic bandage
  • Regular icing of the knee with cold packs
  • Pain medication
  • Knee bracing and use of crutches
  • Focused exercise and physical therapy

In the event that the torn posterior cruciate ligament is severe, other areas of the knee are damaged or conservative treatments are unsuccessful, surgery may be an option to repair the injury. Depending on the outcome of your examination and imaging, your orthopedic surgeon will recommend the surgery that he or she feels will be most effective in resolving your injury.

To contact OrthoCARE Institute or to schedule an appointment with one of our surgeons, please call 972-573-7802 or fill out the form on our Contact Us page. We look forward to helping you heal and regain the quality of life that you deserve!